Tiles (Kitchen) Buying Guide

Tiles (Kitchen)
  • Getting Started

  • Kitchen floors receive heavy family traffic and abuse from cooking materials and cleaning supplies. Kitchen floors should reflect the style of the room, including the cabinetry and appliances. The Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rates tiles for hardness, which provides information for proper usage.

        •  PEI 0 Use only on walls— not strong enough for floors

        •  PEI 1 Use on floors in light traffic areas, such as bathrooms.

        •  PEI 2 Use where soft shoes will not cause abrasion, so not suitable for kitchens, entryways, etc.

        •  PEI 3 Use in residential or light commercial areas, such as offices.

        •  PEI 4 Use in regular traffic areas such as kitchens, commercial offices, restaurants and hotels

        •  PEI 5 Use in heavy traffic areas such as in public buildings, building entryways, etc. Takes abrasion and moisture well.

    The Tile Council of North America tests for slip resistance with the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) test. Tiles are measured for their usability if a variety of applications. Check with the DCOF rating for floor tiles to minimize slipping. Also, use small carpeting around areas of extreme moisture, such as outside the tub or door of the shower.

  • Floor Tiles

  • Vinyl tiles are versatile and easy to install. Constructed of several layers, the top wearlayer is important as it will receive the traffic from family members and pets, must resist spills and stains, and easy to maintain. Sizes range from 12-inches by 12-inches or 18-inches by 18-inches. Planks are defined as shorter in width such as 4-inches or 6 inches by 2 feet to 4 feet long.

        •  Luxury Vinyl tiles are created with an assortment of printed designs topped by a wearlayer to protect the design. The tiles — or planks depending on the size — can simulate natural stones or wood and even contain a textured wearlayer. Installed as floating or glue-down, the tiles may even be grouted to appear as ceramic or porcelain tiles.

    Cork is a natural wood product that works well on kitchen floors as it is fire and insect-resistant, warm and soft to walk on. The tiles range in color from light beige to medium brown and even slightly green. Tiles are sealed for easy care and should last for decades, although they may need re-sealing in extreme cases.

    Ceramic floor tiles are made from natural clay with minerals and glazed to create a moisture resistant surface. Tiles can range in size from 4-inches by 4-inches to 2-feet by 2-feet and come in a variety of colors. Mosaic tile patterns are mounted in mesh panels for easier installation. Ceramic tiles can be slippery when wet, so choose floor tiles with a slip resistant surface, or smaller tiles with lots of grout lines that will absorb the moisture and be less slippery.

    Porcelain tiles are created from white clay with minerals added for strength. The floor tiles are glazed to reduce moisture absorption. Ranging in size from 4-inches by 4-inches to 2-feet by 2-feet, they come in a variety of colors. Mosaic tile patterns are mounted in mesh panels for easier installation.

        •  Wood look porcelain tile are created to look like wood planks but have the durability and ease of porcelain tile. Textured, including knots, the tiles are created in shapes and sizes to accommodate installation designs such as herringbone and basketweave.

    Natural stones often are cut into tiles as large as 24-inches by 24-inches or mosaic patterns and used on kitchen floors. Installation of larger or oversized tiles may be challenging as any unevenness in the subfloor may cause cracking of the stone. Sealing will reduce staining and add life to the stone.

        •  Marble is the most commonly used natural stone, installed most frequently in white as sheets or as tiles. The veining in the marble adds an aesthetic not found in other materials; realize the veins will not match up when installed. Marble is a soft stone and will react to acids in lotions, cleaning solutions, etc. Sealing marble will reduce water absorption.

        •  Travertine is a sedimentary rock available in earthy tones. Its characteristics make it adaptable to flooring but it must be sealed to be stain resistant. Often confused with marble, it is in the same family of stone.

        •  Limestone is in the same family of natural stones as marble and travertine. The colors of limestone are warm and more uniform as light beige or off white.

        •  Quartzite is another hard stone used to create floor tiles. Honed quartzite provides a better surface on the floor. Colors are bright and vary.

        •  Granite is a dense rock making it very durable for use as flooring tiles inside and outside. It has a very low absorption rate and holds up to stains and abrasions. Granite tiles come in an assortment of colors from white to black, beige and tan to green.

    Slate tiles come in a range of colors and are strong enough to be used as floor tiles in kitchens.

  • Wall Tiles

  • Ceramic tiles are made from natural clay, which is fired to take out its moisture content and then glazed to create a moisture resistant surface. Ceramic tiles are created in a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes for making a unique bathroom installation.

    Porcelain tiles are created from denser clay with minerals added for strength. Fired at higher temperatures than ceramic. Manufactured in a vast variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, porcelain tiles can be used to create personalized rooms for homeowners.

    Glass tiles are created in many colors, sizes and shapes. The finish may be glossy, frosted, iridescent, matte, or brushed. Glass tiles can highlight an area by bringing attention to the surface, such as on the backsplash or over the cooktop, or can be used on the walls throughout the kitchen.

    Natural Stones

        •  Marble — again white is the most frequently used because it opens up the space — is popular for walls above the counter or as a backsplash.

        •  Travertine is available in earthy tones resulting from minerals in the mix at formation. Its characteristics make it adaptable for kitchen installations.

        •  Polished Quartzite is durable and comes in a variety of colors and textures.

        •  Onyx provides the height of design due to the translucent nature of the stone. Well suited for kitchen walls.

        •  Serpentine wall tiles are more moisture resistant than marble. Because the natural stone splits, the tiles may be produced with a texture.

        •  Soapstone does not absorb moisture and is resistant to spills.

        •  Granite shows off its richness of color with small flecks at the surface. Cut into a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

        •  Slate offers a wide palette of colors that can bring texture and character to the bathroom.

    Pebbles and shells are organized into mosaics for use as backsplashes . Colors, sizes, shapes vary from mosaic panel to panel.

    Metal tiles in aluminum, copper, stainless steel and bronze can add a unique feature to a kitchen installation Highlight an area, mimic the appliances or cabinet hardware even the faucets in wall tiles.  Produced as squares or three-dimensional designs or tumbled pebbles, metal tiles offer a unique asset to kitchen aesthetics.

    Mosaics are created in a variety of materials and designs placed into a plastic web making them easy to install. Some mosaics may combine stone and metal to create architectural designs.

  • Price Considerations

  • Material price is the largest part of the budget.  The size of the tile as well as the type of material indicates the cost.

    Maintenance of materials must also be considered. Natural stones will require sealing, and should be re-sealed periodically, especially on floors. 

    Installation is another factor in the price of tiles. Professional installers should be consulted, especially for natural stones. Oversized tiles may need floor leveling prior to installation. Mosaic panels are the easiest to install for do-it-yourselfers as they are sold in plastic webbing for setting in the thinset mortar and are easy to fit as the webbing can be cut rather than the actual tile.

    Vinyl floor tiles are the least costly option for floors.

    Ceramic tiles on floors and walls are a great value for the investment. Easy to clean but may need re-grouting after years of use. In kitchens, the grout should be sealed so it does not trap dirt and bacteria.

    Porcelain tiles are more expensive than ceramic but still a moderate budget option. Easy to clean, they may need re-grouting after years of use. In kitchens, the grout should be sealed so it does not trap dirt and bacteria.

    Glass costs are based on size and shape and intricacy of a mosaic. Some glass mosaics may contain natural stone and metal for increased architectural interest.

    Natural Stones are the most expensive option for flooring and wall tiles. The size of the tile will impact the price as well as the actual stone chosen. Installation costs of natural stone should be considered when looking at the budget.

    Mosaics of pebbles or natural stones may not as expensive as a tile since less of the stone is actually used, depending upon the actual stone used in the design. If the mosaic contains intricately cut designs, the prices will increase.

    Metal tiles when compared by square foot, and depending upon the type of metal, may be amongst the priciest option.